The village of Bishopstrow is referred to in the Domesday Book as 'Bishopstreo' meaning Bishop's Tree. We know that St Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne and Abbot of Malmesbury, spent much of his life as a missionary in the county of Wessex. Some say that Bishopstrow is one of the places where his body rested on its funeral journey to Malmesbury.
Whatever the authenticity of this, there seems no doubt that a church has stood on this site since the time of St Aldhelm, 639-709AD. Until recent years it was thought to be of Norman foundation with an apse; an unusual feature in Wiltshire. However, in 1981 lightning damage destroyed the lightning conductor. A trench was dug for a new one and the foundations of a Saxon church were unearthed, thus strengthening the link with St Aldhelm.
The church underwent considerable restoration in1757 and at that time the church retained the apse.
However, most of the present building dates from 1877 when the present chancel was built. The plaster ceiling was removed to reveal the mediaeval oak roof, which was restored.
If one compares the pictures of the church taken from the west end in 1897 and 2003 they are remarkably similar. The gas lamps are no longer in place and the main difference is the addition of the chancel screen.
This beautiful wooden screen given by the Southey family at the beginning of the twentieth century holds a fascination for all who study it closely. The upright consists of hundreds of carved leaves. Tiny figures, including a lizard, a mouse and a fox, sixteen in all, hide among the leaves to be discovered by the sharp-eyed observer.
|Read more on St Aldhelm here|
|Worship/Service times at St Aldhelm's|